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Graphic Novels: Read the Pictures

Traditionally, we think of storybooks as a lot of words and only a few pictures. In this collection of books recommended for children ages 0-9, the pictures come first! Using a technique similar to comic books, graphic novels use visuals to guide the story, adding text only to fill in the gaps. More complex than picture books, graphic novels require young readers to have a certain sophistication — as well as strong comprehension skills — to appreciate them. Graphic novels can be read with an adult or independently, and are especially good for struggling or reluctant readers.

Gene Luen Yang: The Making of a Graphic Novel

Gene Luen Yang is an award-winning graphic novelist. In January 2016, he was named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress. His book American Born Chinese received the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature, and was a finalist for the National Book Award —  both firsts for a graphic novel. Watch as Yang demonstrates the steps in his writing and drawing process. (Credit: The Kennedy Center Education Department, Performing Arts Series).

Quotable Quotes: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss

Alamo All Stars

By: Nathan Hale
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Actual events and people from 19th century Texas come to life in the Hale’s latest look at history. Humor and fact combine in image and word presented in comic book format.

American Born Chinese

By: Gene Yang
Illustrated by: Lark Pien
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Three storylines — contemporary and mythic — intersect in this tale of a boy who is not comfortable with his culture or himself. This fresh, sometimes surprising, revealing novel is told in image and text. This graphic novel was the first of its format to win the Printz Award for best work of Young Adult Literature.

Awesome Dawson

By: Chris Gall
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Dawson has been collecting and reusing everything ever since he was a baby but he must rescue the world from his robotic creation, the Vacu-Maniac! Recycling is gently imbedded in Dawson's outrageous adventure detailed in intricate (and labeled) illustrations.

Babymouse: Beach Babe

By: Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

School is out and Babymouse heads to the beach with her surfboard — and brother — in tow. The energetic mouse is awash in nonstop beach adventures, depicted in bold line and pink wash.

Babymouse: Puppy Love

By: Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The irrepressible Babymouse is eager to get a puppy even though her track record with pets isn't encouraging. Could Babymouse's dreams be better than reality? Fast and funny, many readers will see themselves in the very pink dreams of Babymouse.

Bone: Eyes of the Storm

By: Jeff Smith
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The third in a suspenseful trilogy, the Bones and their new friends battle dangers — from rat creatures to their own personal tragedies. The author creates a mysterious and complex world as the setting for this dark, gripping drama.

Dear Fish

By: Chris Gall
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

When Peter throws a bottle into the ocean with a message for the sea creatures to come visit him, he hardly expected them to take him up on the offer! After various marine animals cause chaos in his hometown, Peter must set the situation straight. Awash with humor and puns, this is a great book for discussing literal and figurative meanings, and provides details on over 30 species of fish that appear in the book.

El Deafo

By: Cece Bell
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful — and very awkward — hearing aid. The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear — sometimes things she shouldn’t — but also isolates her from her classmates. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.

Fashion Kitty

By: Charise Mericle
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

As Lana and her unconventional family of kitties (they have a pet mouse) celebrate her 8th birthday, a shelf of fashion magazines knocks an unsuspecting Lana out cold. She wakes up unharmed but has transformed into a skilled superhero with the ability to help the fashion-impaired, in this first of the series that spoofs superheroes.

Jack and the Box

By: Art Spiegelman
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

What could be sillier than a Jack-in-the-box leaving its box to play? Why, even more things emerging from Jack's hat and box! A straightforward comic book format combined with simple illustration and conversation bubbles effectively convey both meaning and silliness in this enjoyable, imaginative romp.

Jackie and the Shadow Snatcher

By: Larri Di Fiori
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Jackie and his faithful dog embark on an adventure to retrieve Jackie’s lost shadow from a sinister foe, the Shadow Snatcher. Advice from Mr. Socrates, the smartest guy alive and Jackie’s neighbor is, of course, invaluable. The black/white panels augment the melodrama of this tale with a distinctly old-fashioned feel.

Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea

By: Anne O'Brien
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In a carefully researched retelling of a Korean legend, the son of a powerful minister and a servant is scorned by high society because of his commoner roots. After leaving home and discovering that injustice drives criminals to crime, he begins training a group of bandits to become an army that rights wrongs. With artwork authentic to the historical time, this is a drama for sophisticated readers.

Magic Pickle

By: Scott Morse
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Sophisticated readers will appreciate the over-the-top adventures of a cryogenic pickle that emerges with superhero skills through the bedroom floor of Jo Jo Wigman. This full-color comic is distinguished by funny puns and wordplay as well as the combination of familiar school problems and Magic Pickle’s fantastic dilemmas.

March: Book One

By: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
Illustrated by: Nate Powell
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: Teen
Reading Level: Independent Reader

John Lewis, son of a sharecropper, grew up to become an activist and later, a U.S. Congressman. His life and crucial role in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement is dramatically presented in word and image in graphic format in three volumes (March: Book Two and March: Book Three). The story of the young John Lewis can be shared with children as young as four years in the picture book biography, Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis written by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

Owly: Flying Lessons

By: Andy Runton
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Though nearly wordless, the expressive black and white illustrations effectively convey Owly's broad range of changing emotions: loneliness, trepidation, fear, joy, and more. In this volume, Owly learns to fly while another forest animal learns to trust — both with the help of Owly's buddy, Worm.

Polo: The Runaway Book

By: Regis Faller
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The chase is on when Polo's book is stolen by a small alien. Polo, an engaging hound, pulls an amazing assortment of aids from his backpack, all leading to a satisfying conclusion. Colorful art placed in comic strip format is supported on large pages in Polo's second adventure.

Rapunzel's Revenge

By: Shannon Hale
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This re-telling of the familiar fairy tale is set in the Wild West and features a spunky heroine who teams partners with Jack (of the Beanstalk) to fight injustice.

Sardine in Outer Space

By: Emmanuel Guiber
Illustrated by: Joann Sfar
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Red-headed and tiny, Sardine is a space pirate who takes off on adventures with her pirate uncle and their friend in a spaceship named Huckleberry. Their madcap adventures are fast–paced and punchy, with grotesque details to appeal to a younger crowd, and sophisticated cultural references and puns that will appeal to older readers. The story is told in a graphic novel format.

Secret Coders

By: Gene Yang
Illustrated by: Mike Holmes
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Hopper’s new school, Stately Academy, is more creepy than scholarly as the 12-year-old girl soon learns. But with her new friends, they discover the school’s secrets and address them through computer coding. The adventures of this multicultural cast of kids continue in Paths and Portals as the series goes on.  

Smile

By: Raina Telgemeier
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Sixth-grader Raina falls and severely damages her two front teeth. Through middle school and into high school, she struggles with peer relationships, discovering her own strengths while enduring painful orthodontia. The concluding pages reveal a self-assured high school student who can indeed smile. Full-color comic panels perfectly capture young adolescence.

Squish: Super Amoeba

By: Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Even though Squish and his pals are one-cell amoebas, children will recognize themselves in the frenetic adventures of bullies and saving the world from evil.

Squish: The Power of the Parasite

By: Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

School's out! Everyone's favorite amoeba is headed to summer camp! Squish's summer is turning out to be terrifying! For one thing, Squish can't swim. And to make matters worse, his new camp friend is a Hydra (scientific fact: A hydra's tentacles can paralyze you!). Will Squish sink or will he swim this summer?

Stinky

By: Eleanor Davis
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

When a new kid comes to his swamp, a small monster does everything he can to get rid of him. Instead, the young monster learns a thing or so about friendship. An easy-to-follow comic book format combined with recognizable concerns makes this ideal for emerging readers or for one-on-one sharing.

The Adventures of Polo

By: Regis Faller
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The rollicking adventures of Polo, a bright and resourceful pup, are told through lively, detailed pictures that warrant multiple examinations. Quick–paced and engaging, Polo brings all the right supplies for exploring the wider world by boat, plane and spaceship!

The Baby-Sitter's Club: Kristy's Great Idea — A Graphic Novel

By: Ann M. Martin
Illustrated by: Raina Telgemeier
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This popular series has been trimmed and translated into a new format. With middle school girls as protagonists, the visual storytelling amplifies characters and clarifies difficult concepts to make it appropriate for younger readers. Tough topics like stepfamilies and medical problems are discussed with sensitivity (and sometimes humor) through the context of the girls' friendship.

The Mighty 12: Superheroes of Greek Myth

By: Charles Smith
Illustrated by: P. Craig Russell
Genre: Fiction, Myths and Legends
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Greek gods and goddesses are the stuff of contemporary superheroes. Dramatic full-color, exaggerated comic book illustrations are used to present a dozen of the ancient heroes, sure to thrill contemporary, more experienced readers.

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